As the popularity of athletics in Botswana continues to soar, the upcoming IAAF World Championships billed for August 4 in London could break the ceiling as Botswana looks set to field a strong team with pedigree. The probability curve shapes well in favour of local athletes come August.
Botswana has not won a medal at the championships since the 2011 edition in Daegu, South Korea. But with the current team, chances are that the barren years may be brought to a screeching halt – with the possibility of winning a medal almost approaching actuality.
The country has relied on the heroics of the experienced Isaac Makwala and Amantle Montsho for some time, but the emerging sensations in Baboloki Thebe, Karabo Sibanda; and of course the resurgence of a rejuvenated Nijel Amos; as well as the enterprise of Onkabetse Nkobolo is demonstration that athletics Botswana has upped the tempo.
Botswana has fielded the cream of the lot for years especially in the 400m and 4x400m relay, and if recent records are anything to go by, it looks likely that global medals loom large on the horizon especially for the men’s senior relay team (4x400m), 400m and 800m categories.
The 4X400m Men’s Relay
The men’s 4x400m team is optimistic about this year’s prospects, following a strong global appearance and clocking 3:02.28, a Season’s Best (SB) in April’s IAAF World Relays in Bahamas. Even though a 2nd place finish was somewhat heart breaking for Batswana who yearned for pole finish in Nassau, it was an encouraging achievement because Botswana finally toppled the USA and its highly experienced former World Champion Lashawn Merritt, as well as Grenada’s Kirani James and possibly 400m whiz kid Wayde Van Neikerk in London. The athletes proved to have given it their best shot, finishing in podium position for the first time in Bahamas.
With Nkobolo and Makwala rearing to go, this gives team Botswana significant depth. One ambition for the aging Makwala is to decorate his glittering career with a global World medal and so are the red-hot young talents’ bids to consolidate their trade among top athletes at a global stage.
According to an experienced athletics coach, Oabona Theetso, Botswana’s 4x400m, men’s relay team, Thebe (400m) and Amos (800m) both stand a chance of going up on the ranks by winning a medal at the World championships. In an interview he said there has never been a better time where medals look set like this year. “The relay team will definitely notch a medal, given their season’s best at Bahamas and the individual performance of 400m – we should really be hopeful for a medal,” he explained.
Thebe: The 400m race marvel
In the 400m race, all factors remaining constant, Thebe is the only front-runner who is ready to mount serious pressure on both Merritt and Van Neikerk. The fast developing athlete is best paced to bring back a second medal (any) from the global spectacle.
In his last diamond league race, the 20 year old who is occupying the second spot in the Diamond League standings with 7 points clocked 44:02 in Lausanne. The times are impressive though the sprinting world record holder, Neikerk definitely looks poised for gold. He did an astonishing 43:62 in his latest race with Thebe and Makwala coming behind him. Another challenge for Thebe would be the US sprinter, Merritt who outran him in May at the Eugene meet. Merritt clocked 44:79 while thebe showed up a few seconds later with 44:95.
According to Theetso, Van Niekerk is the biggest threat for the local boys at the IAAF meet. “Our boys will have to break a sweat if they are to beat him, it shows that he (Van Niekerk) has been working on sprints considering the time he clocked in his 400m race,” said the coach. Makwala could be the dark horse in the race having clocked 44:08 last week in Lausanne.
Nonetheless Merritt has proven not be much of a threat as age is catching up with him. The last time the 31 year old was on track was in May and his mentors are perhaps sparing him the fatigue of competing in various races. “The only threat is Wayne (Neikerk),” Theetso reiterated.
As for Sibanda, who is experiencing an amazing season start; there is fear that his hamstring injury might stand on his way of him winning any medal. The sprinter has yet to be examined by specialists to fully assess the injury. His last performance was two months back where he couldn’t finish the race owing to the injury. He, however might get to share in the glory if the relay team out performs other for podium finish.
800m: Nijel bounces back…
Olympics silver medallist, Amos has perhaps returned to his former glory, following a few upsets in some recent past competitions. “He is picking up at the right time, which is good for him and the nation,” Theetso highlighted. In Lausanne ‘Zorro’ clocked 800m world leading time (1:43) which certainly assures him of a medal. His rival David Rudisha is doing his preparations behind the scenes, but this shouldn’t disturb Amos, as his time speaks for him, the coach reckons.
For the female athletes, Montsho remains the only experienced runner of all. Since her fall from grace in 2015, a lot has changed in the 400m race. She clocked 49:56 in 2011 and the time hardly assures of any medal. Her preparations have been below par competing only in local meets clocking 52:02. Since then she has never been any active. However, prospect, Lydia Jele has proven to be the only candidate to surprise the world and probably bring a medal home.
The 2021-22 football season has finally arrived. It does not come at a better time than this one after two years of no action. With the tune changing around football circles, a game between Township Rollers and Extension Gunners will never go unnoticed in the calendar of Botswana football.
The two teams, which enjoy the largest following in Botswana, are billed to headline the start of the season. The fixture, however, comes after almost two years without playing football, and it is still unknown if they still carry the same significance and meaning in the future of Botswana football. With many followers ready to quench their football thirst, all eyes, however, will be on rather what happens than who wins the match.
Forget about the comparison that continuously stirs followers` minds about which player is better than the other. While Rollers speedy winger Edwin Moalosi and Extension Gunner’s pacey recruit, Lesego Lubinda, are likely to determine the game’s outcome, the instrumental men happen to be in the midst of the park. The two teams are about to embark on a story where Rollers have already been labelled as potential league champions because of their massive recruitment. At the same time, Gunners are relegation candidates following a lacklustre performance in the transfer market.
The Peleng outfit started preparation very late, with speculations of an absent chairman not inspiring confidence. The question is whether the fixture between the two sides is as prominent as it used to be? The fixture had the duo of former Rollers man Lawrence Majawa and Captain Maano Ditshupo ruling the midfield whenever Kenny Pilatwe and Lesego Molemogi faced them. Yet, there is striking mutual respect between them and a similarity that, for all the focus on goalscorers, may make them the central actors in the drama expected to unfold next weekend at the National Stadium.
Many new faces have come out. Rollers still have Ditshupo, Segolame Boy and Lemponye Tshireletso, while Gunners will enter the field with recruits but have veteran player Dirang Moloi in their mix. These are the players who used to face each other in the heart of midfield, the men entrusted with bringing an identity to their teams, whose job it is not just to play better; and make others play well.
Rollers Captain Maano Ditshupo is likely to continue his dominance to bring out the team’s ideologue — bright, opinionated and analytical, the man; former Rollers head coach Nicola Kavazovic once said of him: “I cannot imagine Popa without him.” On the other side, Gunners’ Moloi is the man who will do the bidding on the pitch for Gunners – intelligent, communicative, quietly authoritative, bringing calm to a team that plays at breakneck speed.
Both groups of midfielders from these teams are undoubtedly natural talents: insightful and passionate about the game, awe at the passion it provokes and assured how it can be played. They are teammates and former fellow travellers for the Zebras. During the past season, Rollers coaches said Segolame Boy, another instrumental midfielder, was his best player of the campaign. And Gunners coaches, on the other hand, have merely avoided rotations on, but when big games come, it is Moloi he seeks to protect first.
For Maano and Rollers, it is a matter of beginning a new formula in a new revolution in his role. As he embraced it, he had not failed it. Moloi might seem fatigued, but his dangerous moves on the last third of Rollers might still haunt the Gaborone West giants. Boy will be key in orchestrating final passes to the top man, but even if he is not there, Lemponye Tshireletso can equally put up with the role. The question then is whose role will prosper.
Botswana Football League (BFL) has successfully secured a P4 million grant from the Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) in a move aimed at kicking start the elite league by next week. As early as last week, BFL new board started knocking on the doors of BNSC, applying for a P4 million grant as the struggle to bring football from the edges of death continues.
Sources who spoke to this publication indicate that the newly assembled board of the league, led by Nicolas Zakhem, has managed to convince the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development to play a pivotal role in nurturing and cultivating football in financial terms. However, there is an expected backlash from BNSC as other sporting codes would want the same treatment in the future.
It is reported that BFL is not expected to pay back the money as it comes as a grant. The BFL has also successfully lobbied Botswana Football Association (BFA) to source a loan of equal amount from FIFA. The thinking inside the BFL board is that FIFA loan must be repaid with the grant from the BNSC to avoid running a company with debts just from the beginning.
The BFL board met on Wednesday to ask for P1 million advancement from BFA to put in place logistics surrounding the return of the league. It is further reported that the money will be paid as soon as available sponsors transact their part to the BFL. The anticipation finally is enormous after the board approved fixtures to kick start the league by the 29th of October, a few days after all players take their jab.
According to the Sport Ministry and other stakeholders, part of the impetus for vaccinating players is that sport events are quick spreaders; hence players could unknowingly spread the virus to other people. However, observers now believe that the country has gone one step further combating the virus through vaccination. Testing is no longer a major problem. Zakhem, the chairman of BFL, explained that it was necessary to delay the commencement of the league until all players were vaccinated and when all stakeholders were on the same page with developments surrounding football.
“You will see that it was wise to wait a bit to bring everyone on board; all players need to be vaccinated, even supporters have to come back to make a perfect advertisement for football in the eyes of the sponsors,” said Zakhem. The domestic league was halted in April 2019, and a decision was taken to crown the team that occupied first place, Jwaneng Galaxy.
Furthermore, three teams lying at the bottom of the table were relegated, and clubs in pole positions from Debswana First Division North and South saw themselves gaining promotion to the elite league. By all accounts, the association felt it was a controversial option to undertake but also fairer for the sake of progress.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) constitution appears to be under heavy scrutiny as Tebogo Sebego, the president of Notwane Sporting club, questions its authenticity, with strong indications that several clauses were removed and others added without the input of the General Assembly.
Sebego, who vied for the BFA presidency in October 2020, feels Notwane is a bonafide member of BFA and has been participating in the past three BFA assemblies but cannot be part of the mess that the club and others did not create. On 13th September 2021, Notwane forwarded a complaint letter to the football association’s chief executive officer (CEO), challenging how two constitutions were amended.
The club says a constitution dated 25th June 2021 and the other bearing a stamp of 10th December 2020 were amended under fraudulent circumstances and want an explanation on how it transpired. “We have recently received a constitution dated 25th June 2021 stamped by the registrar of societies. The said constitution carries some changes that were never discussed and voted upon at the BFA general assembly.
Of particular interest, we have noted that the following new amendments, Article 33 of the 2016 constitution, is replaced by article 30. The procedure has been reduced, but the principles remain the same. The relevance of this is to restate the constitutional culture and mandatory powers of the General Assembly as the sole body responsible for constitutional amendments,” part of the letter seen by this publication reads.
Article 33 that Sebego complains of reads thus, “The general assembly is responsible for amending the constitution and the standing orders of the general assembly.” Furthermore, Notwane argues that another article (22.1) of the 2021 constitution then wipes off the presence of 16 delegates from the Premier League clubs and eight representatives from the first division together with their voting rights.
The club believes that while the autonomy of the Botswana Football League (BFL) was approved in the 2020 General Assembly, the assembly never discussed, voted or approved the removal of delegates from the General Assembly. The team believes that the amendments are therefore unlawful for lack of authority from the General Assembly. This is the case because it has a significant impact on the landscape of the structure of the General Assembly, Notwane argues.
Moreover, Notwane’s shock is skyrocketing, especially when raising another equally screaming change in the constitution. In the letter state, the club states that article 33.4 of the 2021 constitution introduces a term limit for the president. The club speculates that the amendment seems to be carried from the 2019 version of the constitution, and whatever its genesis, the matter was never before the General Assembly.
“It is only the General Assembly that has powers, through the right constitutional channels to introduce a limitation on the term of the president and further to define the limitation based on the reasons presented to it,” the argument goes on. The old constitution was limited to at most two terms, but it seems the president can now enjoy the third term.
Sebego and Notwane argue that they have raised these articles to demonstrate that the constitution was amended without following due process in an unconstitutional, unlawful and somewhat fraudulent manner. They say this 2021 constitution and that of the 2019 version are, in their view, unlawful documents and should be reversed without delay.
The complaint letter was also copied to the Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) desk and the registrar of societies — an organisation that issued a stamp on the constitutions in question. Notwane, in a parting shot, wants to be furnished with minutes that allowed the constitutional changes because, to their understanding, there was none.
It has come to the attention of this publication that Notwane had given the BFA head of secretariat seven days to have replied, but nothing has come out. However, neither party was available for comment as the paper was going to print.